We are excited to partner with Intense Cycles, a team that combines a rich legacy in the mountain bike world with a revitalized approach on how to run a bike brand. With a rich racing history and an impressive engineering track record, Intense combines a distinct aesthetic with a practical approach to bike design. Bear with me as I do my best to break down what sets Intense apart from the competition.
What is Intense Cycles?
Intense Cycles started in the late 80’s and early 90’s as a response to lackluster mountain bike suspension design that pervaded the MTB world at the time. They quickly hopped into racing, with riders like Shaun Palmer and others finding success under the flamboyant and loud Intense Factory Team. This carries on to today, as racing is solidly embedded into the brand’s DNA.
For all intents and purposes there is one name that is synonymous with Intense: Jeff Stebler. Stebler saw a way to improve mountain bikes, and continues to do that today. His continuous push toward success at the race level pushes the brand forward and into the future.
Here’s the short story: the JS-Tuned Suspension (short for Intense founder Jeff Steber) is a modified variation of the VPP suspension kinematic popularized by Santa Cruz Bicycles. Years varying approaches have created two suspension kinematics that separates the two brands based on what kind of feel you’re looking for.
A solid rear triangle combines with two counter-rotating links; one at the seattube, and one at the bb area. Like traditional VPP, there are myriad benefits: VPP will always offer a top-notch pedaling platform when riding up the trail, and braking under load is inherently more balanced than many other designs largely due to their linear spring rate. The tradeoff is usually a lack of small-bump sensitivity and an oft-discussed weakness riding over square-edged corners. And while Santa Cruz and Intense have different engineers to tune their bikes, differences are minimal and are better compared in models that have similar intentions and suspension travel, like comparing the Intense Primer to something like the Tallboy or Hightower.
Why Would I Want an Intense?
We are proud of the myriad brands we carry, and we work to carry brands that we are consistently excited to ride. Intense is one of those brands. They don’t have the efficiency-over-all feel of SCOTT, the quirky innovative side of Cannondale, or the everlasting cool of Santa Cruz, but Intense manages to build bikes that are every bit as impressive. Beneath the impressive attention to detail – JS-Tuned linkage, smooth internal cable routing, beautiful headtube badge – is well-thought-out geometry and ride quality that makes every Intense feel like the race-derived bike that it is.
Intense has a wide range of mountain bikes, all of which hill the needs of mountain bikers with aplomb. We’ll focus on the two that have caught our eye: the Sniper Trail and Primer 29.
Intense Sniper XC: We’ll go into this bike further in our ride review, but Intense calls this their ground up pedaling machine with 100mm travel. And while it’s based on their Sniper XC, the same website says that “this is no XC machine.” We’re inclined to agree; ride review HERE.
Intense Primer S: This one is a bit of weirdo pick, as it features a 29 x 2.6″ tire up front and a 27.5 x 2.8″ tire out back. Why mix and match wheelsizes? Well, the idea is that a 29er up front is a smooth roller through the chunk, while the 27.5″ rear provides a bit more agility when powering up short climbs. The rear is wrapped in a 2.8″ plus tire, which aims to provide a smoother ride on descents and excellent traction on climbs. The JS-Tuned suspension, with its VPP-style setup, will do a good job of preventing pedal bob and providing a solid pedaling platform on long climbs. And let’s be frank: 150 mm travel up front and 140 mm travel in the rear is just about all the travel most people need.
If there’s one thing to highlight with all of these bikes, it’s versatility. Beneath the achingly gorgeous details that make each of these bikes special – rattle-free internal housing, custom-sculpted chain guards, that sweet badge, a remarkable linkage system – they all represent versatile solutions within their respective niches.